Giovanni Alfonso Borelli

Giovanni Alfonso Borelli

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Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (28 January 1608, Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 - 31 December 1679, Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

) was a Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 physiologist, physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, and mathematician
Mathematician
A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

. He contributed to the modern principle of scientific investigation by continuing Galileo's
Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei , was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism...

 custom of testing hypotheses against observation. Trained in mathematics, Borelli also made extensive studies of Jupiter
Jupiter
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest planet within the Solar System. It is a gas giant with mass one-thousandth that of the Sun but is two and a half times the mass of all the other planets in our Solar System combined. Jupiter is classified as a gas giant along with Saturn,...

's moons, the mechanics of animal locomotion and, in microscopy
Microscopy
Microscopy is the technical field of using microscopes to view samples and objects that cannot be seen with the unaided eye...

, of the constituents of blood
Blood
Blood is a specialized bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances such as nutrients and oxygen to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells....

. He also used microscopy to investigate the stomatal movement of plants, and undertook studies in medicine and geology. During his career, he enjoyed the protection of Queen Christina of Sweden, which sheltered him from the attacks from the Italian authorities suffered by Galileo.

Biography


Giovanni Borelli was born on 28 January 1608 in the district of Castel Nuovo
Castel Nuovo
Castel Nuovo , often called Maschio Angioino, is a medieval castle in the city of Naples, southern Italy. It is the main symbol of the architecture of the city...

, in Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

. He was the son of Spanish infantryman Miguel Alonso and a local woman named Laura Porello (alternately Porelli or Borelli.)

Borelli eventually traveled to Rome where he studied under Benedetto Castelli
Benedetto Castelli
Benedetto Castelli , born Antonio Castelli, was an Italian mathematician. He took the name "Benedetto" upon entering the Benedictine Order in 1595....

, matriculating in mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 . Sometime before 1640 he was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Messina. In the early 1640s, he met Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei , was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism...

 in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

. While it is likely that they remained acquaintances, Galileo rejected considerations to nominate Borelli as head of Mathematics at the University of Pisa
University of Pisa
The University of Pisa , located in Pisa, Tuscany, is one of the oldest universities in Italy. It was formally founded on September 3, 1343 by an edict of Pope Clement VI, although there had been lectures on law in Pisa since the 11th century...

 when he left the post himself. Borelli would attain this post in 1656. It was there that he first met the Italian anatomist Marcello Malpighi
Marcello Malpighi
Marcello Malpighi was an Italian doctor, who gave his name to several physiological features, like the Malpighian tubule system.-Early years:...

.

Borelli and Malpighi were both founder-members of the short-lived Accademia del Cimento
Accademia del Cimento
The Accademia del Cimento , an early scientific society, was founded in Florence 1657 by students of Galileo, Giovanni Alfonso Borelli and Vincenzo Viviani. The foundation of Academy was funded by Prince Leopoldo and Grand Duke Ferdinando II de' Medici...

, an Italian scientific academy founded in 1657. It was here that Borelli, piqued by Malpighi's own studies, began his first investigations into the science of animal movement, or biomechanics
Biomechanics
Biomechanics is the application of mechanical principles to biological systems, such as humans, animals, plants, organs, and cells. Perhaps one of the best definitions was provided by Herbert Hatze in 1974: "Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems by means of...

. This began an interest that would continue for the rest of his life, eventually earning him the title of the Father of Biomechanics. Borelli's involvement in the Accademia was temporary and the organization itself disbanded shortly after he left.

Borelli returned to Messina in 1668 but was quickly forced into exile for suspected involvement in political conspiracies. Here he first became acquainted with ex-Queen Christina of Sweden
Christina of Sweden
Christina , later adopted the name Christina Alexandra, was Queen regnant of Swedes, Goths and Vandals, Grand Princess of Finland, and Duchess of Ingria, Estonia, Livonia and Karelia, from 1633 to 1654. She was the only surviving legitimate child of King Gustav II Adolph and his wife Maria Eleonora...

 who had also been exiled to Rome for converting to Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

. Borelli lived the rest of his years in poverty, teaching basic mathematics at the school of the convent where he had been allowed to live. He never saw the publication of his masterwork, De Motu Animalium (On the Movement of Animals) as it was published posthumously, financed by Christina and his benefactors at the convent.

Sociopolitical climate


In 1542, the Congregation of the Holy Office (now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , previously known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition , and after 1904 called the Supreme...

) was created by Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III , born Alessandro Farnese, was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1534 to his death in 1549. He came to the papal throne in an era following the sack of Rome in 1527 and rife with uncertainties in the Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation...

 to facilitate in the inquisition of heresy. This institution had influence in philosophy, mathematics, and science. The Holy Office was designed to protect the Catholic faith from ideas that were viewed as damaging to the Church. Its effects continued through the time of Borelli and on to modern times. The office was a well-structured, localized system that targeted new ideas considered to be dangerous by the Church. In addition to containing these ideas, the Holy Office could also punish the offending parties who brought the ideas into the public domain. This institution was one of many ways in which the Catholic Church responded to the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 of the sixteenth century.

Although Borelli lived and worked within this climate, the Holy Office did not hinder his work, perhaps because the Church did not find his work to be damaging to the faith. His work, and the work of many others, however, may still have been influenced by the Holy Office’s treatment of his contemporaries, such as Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei , was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism...

 and Nicolas Steno
Nicolas Steno
Nicolas Steno |Latinized]] to Nicolaus Steno -gen. Nicolai Stenonis-, Italian Niccolo' Stenone) was a Danish pioneer in both anatomy and geology. Already in 1659 he decided not to accept anything simply written in a book, instead resolving to do research himself. He is considered the father of...

. His work resembled that of many of his contemporaries in that he started to adhere to the rules of scientific exploration that are used in modern times, that is, building hypotheses and theories based on observations in the natural world, and then testing them.

Scientific achievements


Borelli’s major scientific achievements are focused around his investigation into biomechanics
Biomechanics
Biomechanics is the application of mechanical principles to biological systems, such as humans, animals, plants, organs, and cells. Perhaps one of the best definitions was provided by Herbert Hatze in 1974: "Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems by means of...

. This work originated with his studies of animals. His publications, De Motu Animalium I and De Motu Animalium II, borrowing their title from the Aristotelian treatise, relate animals to machines and utilize mathematics to prove his theories. The anatomists of the 17th century were the first to suggest the contractile movement of muscles. Borelli, however, first suggested that ‘muscles do not exercise vital movement otherwise than by contracting.’ He was also the first to deny corpuscular influence on the movements of muscles. This was proven through his scientific experiments demonstrating that living muscle did not release corpuscles into water when cut. Borelli also recognized that forward motion entailed movement of a body’s center of gravity forward, which was then followed by the swinging of its limbs in order to maintain balance. His studies also extended beyond muscle and locomotion. In particular he likened the action of the heart to that of a piston. For this to work properly he derived the idea that the arteries have to be elastic. For these discoveries, Borelli is labeled as the father of modern biomechanics
Biomechanics
Biomechanics is the application of mechanical principles to biological systems, such as humans, animals, plants, organs, and cells. Perhaps one of the best definitions was provided by Herbert Hatze in 1974: "Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems by means of...

 and the American Society of Biomechanics uses the Borelli Award as its highest honour for research in the area.

Along with his work on biomechanics
Biomechanics
Biomechanics is the application of mechanical principles to biological systems, such as humans, animals, plants, organs, and cells. Perhaps one of the best definitions was provided by Herbert Hatze in 1974: "Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems by means of...

, Borelli also had interests in physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, specifically the orbits of the planets. Borelli believed that the planets were revolving as a result of three forces. The first force involved the planets' desire to approach the sun. The second force dictated that the planets were propelled to the side by impulses from sunlight, which is corporeal
Corporeal
Corporeal may refer to:*Corporeal undead, See also: :Category:Corporeal undead*Matter *Body, of or relating to the body*Corporeal...

. Finally, the third force impelled the planets outward due to the sun’s revolution. The result of these forces is similar to a stone’s orbit when tied on a string.


Borelli is also considered to be the first man to consider a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus
Rebreather
A rebreather is a type of breathing set that provides a breathing gas containing oxygen and recycled exhaled gas. This recycling reduces the volume of breathing gas used, making a rebreather lighter and more compact than an open-circuit breathing set for the same duration in environments where...

 along with his early submarine design. The exhaled gas was cooled by sea water after passing through copper tubing. The helmet
Diving helmet
Diving helmets are worn mainly by professional divers engaged in surface supplied diving, though many models can be adapted for use with scuba equipment....

was brass with a glass window and 0.6 m (2 ft) in diameter. The apparatus was never likely to be used or tested.

Borelli also wrote:
  • Della cagioni delle febbri maligne (Pisa, 1658)
  • Euclides Restitutus (Pisa, 1658)
  • Apollonii Pergaei Conicorum libri v., vi. et vii (Florence, 1661)
  • Theoricae Mediceorum planetarum ex causis physicis deductae (Florence, 1666)
  • De vi percussionis (Bologna, 1667)
  • Meteorologia Aetnea (Reggio, 1669)
  • De motionibus naturalibus a gravitate pendentibus (Bologna, 1670)

Further reading